Christmas Stars – coming soon from a grower near you…

Every year, approximately 3M poinsettia plants are produced in the UK and Ireland. Growers from Edinburgh in the north to New Milton in the south and from Clacton in the east to Co Cork in the west of Ireland are busy with the tricky job of bringing a beautiful flowering poinsettia to the homes of millions of the population.

Christmas Stars– coming soon from a grower near you…This crop begins its life as young plants (cuttings in a rootball) potted in July and August and stays on the nursery until the last weeks of November; then distributed to your local supermarkets and garden centres. In those 20 weeks, it is pinched and sprayed to control its form and treated with biological control agents and predators to control pests such as whitefly.  Many times consumers will ask if it is possible to get it to flower again- there is no simple answer. Professional growers are being strictly truthful when they say it is possible but rather complicated- this is not a trick to make you buy a new plant each year. Why? The poinsettia needs a combination of long nights (unbroken by even short light interruption)rss and relatively high average temperatures. It’s not that easy to arrange this combination in the home.

Red It seems wherever you look in the stores in the weeks prior to the Christmas holidays, you are going to be ‘seeing red’. It’s a good thing and buyers preparing for their winter festivals of many sorts are using the living colour to express their joy and delight at the chance to take some time with families and celebrate together. Decorating your home is a natural way to welcome in the holiday season and what better way than with living colour?

(Many other colours and forms exist so look out for them with your local growers and garden centres!)

History In the sub-tropical climate of its home, the Christmas star grows as a bush and can be up to 4 metres high. In this form, Joel Poinsett succumbed to the charm of the wild Christmas star around 1828. The US ambassador in Mexico, doctor and passionate botanist, brought the Christmas star to his home. In his honour, it was given the name ‘Poinsettia’. And that’s not all: On the 12th December, the USA has remembered the day Poinsett died since the middle of the 18th century, celebrating ‘Poinsettia Day’. Traditionally, they give each other Christmas stars – a nice custom that is gaining in popularity in Europe, too.

Legend An old legend of the Aztecs says that the plant with the luminous red bracts grew out of a tragic love story. The drops of blood from the broken heart of an Aztec goddess gave rise to the Christmas star. The Aztecs appreciated the plant that adorned the tropical highland during the short winter days less for its decoration and more for its practical benefit. They called the Christmas star ‘Cuetlaxochitl’ in their language. From its bracts, they made a red pigment that was used for textiles and cosmetics. The milky sap of the Christmas star was processed to a fever reducing medicine.

You can read more about Poinsettia here: http://www.weihnachtsstern.de/en/the-christmas-star-biography-of-a-hollywood-star.html The material on this website is prepared by the Stars-for-Europe programme.

Finished crop of poinsettia

Finished crop of poinsettia grown in West Sussex